Tom Lantos: A Human Rights Hero PassesFebruary 17, 2008 at 6:25 pm | Posted in Announcements + Events | 1 Comment
ONE OF Tom Lantos’s first initiatives in Congress was to reward human rights work. Back in 1981, the Hungarian-born congressman sponsored a bill to offer honorary citizenship to Raoul Wallenberg, the missing Swedish diplomat who saved more than 100,000 Jews — including Mr. Lantos himself — from Nazi extermination. Mr. Lantos’s intention was to thank and honor a human rights hero; by the time he passed away last Monday at age 80, the California Democrat had become one himself.
As chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and founder of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, Mr. Lantos worked tirelessly to promote human rights. He turned the world’s attention, and when successful its fury, to travesties across every region of Earth. His efforts to inspire — or, if necessary, shame — individuals, companies and governments into honorable behavior were exhaustive and creative; at the tender age of 78, Mr. Lantos himself was arresting for disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly while protesting the genocide in Darfur outside the Sudanese Embassy.
His genuine concern for human dignity earned the respect and admiration of leaders and human rights advocates around the world. Fellow Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, pop singer and AIDS activist Bono and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon were among the luminaries who attended Mr. Lantos’s memorial service on Thursday. Even the North Korean government — a frequent target of Lantos’s criticisms — sent its condolences.
Mr. Lantos pushed the U.S. government, and in particular congressional Democrats, on a path of leadership in human rights issues. We hope that his work will inspire further championship of the world’s downtrodden — just as Mr. Lantos took his cue from Raoul Wallenberg.